Friday, October 28, 2016

US Charges 61 Defendants in Call Center Scam Based in India - ASSOCIATED PRESS

It can be a frightening call to get — and it's a familiar one for many Americans.

Callers posing as tax and immigration agents are threatening arrest, deportation or other punishment unless money is sent to help clear up what they say is a deportation warrant or to cover supposedly unpaid income taxes.

The government says it's a scam that's tricked at least 15,000 people into shelling out more than $300 million.

In a first-of-its-kind nationwide takedown, the Justice Department announced charges Thursday against 61 defendants in the United States and abroad in connection with call center operations based in India.

As agents fanned out across the country to make arrests, officials in Washington advised the public that the callers on the other end of the line are fraudsters and not representatives of the United States government.

"The U.S. government does not operate in this manner," said Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, head of the Justice Department's criminal division. "We never call to demand that money be loaded immediately onto prepaid cards. U.S. government agencies do not call to demand immediate payments to avoid deportation or to avoid arrest."

The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury last week in the southern district of Texas, charges the defendants — which include five call centers in India — with crimes including wire fraud, money laundering and false impersonation of an officer of the United States.

Defendants were arrested in multiple U.S. cities Thursday, and the Justice Department is seeking the extradition of defendants still in India, Caldwell said.

The indictment outlines a complex web of criminal actors, each with a different role in the conspiracy.

Callers working off scripts and posing as officials with the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would tell unsuspecting victims that they had failed to pay taxes they owed or were at risk of deportation, and that a fast payment was needed to get out of trouble. - Read More

US Charges 61 Defendants in Call Center Scam Based in India - ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Justice Department has charged 61 people in an India-based call center scam

The Department of Justice charged 61 people for their role in a call center scam in which callers impersonated officials from the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies to extract money for fictional government debts.

The far-reaching scam involved "a network of call centers" located in India, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell, said at a press conferenceThursday. The swindlers, pretending to be government agents, mostly targeted the elderly and immigrants demanding money to pay off debts that did not exist.

The scam went on for four years ensnaring 15,000 victims and resulted in the theft of an estimated $50 million.

So far 56 people, 20 of whom have already been arrested, and five call centers have been charged with international fraud and money laundering conspiracy, Caldwell said. The U.S plans to seek extradition from India, a country that has traditionally cooperated with extradition procedures.

"This transnational criminal ring targeted victims in the United States, impersonating IRS, Immigration, police and other government officials, and demanded immediate payments to avoid deportation, arrest warrants or to cover allegedly unpaid income taxes," she said.

"They tricked frightened individuals by targeting their worst fears," she said. They threatened and intimidated victims with arrest, imprisonment or deportation if they did not pay— in many cases, within 24 hours, she said.

Once the unsuspecting victims paid the fraudulent dues, "the call centers relied on a network of U.S.-based associates to cash out and launder the extorted funds as quickly as possible," she said. "This was done through a variety of prepaid debit cards, which were often registered by conspirators using personal identifying information of close to 50,000 U.S.-based identity theft victims, or through MoneyGram or Western Union wire transfers conducted with fake names and fraudulent identification." 

The scammers are "persistent," J. Russell George, a spokesman for the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said at the press conference. "These people are resilient and won't give up."

The federal government is keen on getting the word out about these scams to the U.S public. "If you receive a call like this, do not pay any money," Caldwell said. "It is not the U.S. government calling you." - Read More, nbcnews

The Justice Department has charged 61 people in an India-based call center scam

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Afghanistan is the dirty little secret of the US presidential campaign - Simon Tisdall

Fight against Taliban is now America’s longest war but has been all but ignored by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump
With all eyes focused on Mosul, Aleppo and Russia’s military buildup in the Middle East, the sharply deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan has been all but ignored by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Whoever wins the US presidency, such insouciance will be hard to justify beyond January’s inauguration day.

As this week’s killing of 30 villagers in Ghor province showed, Afghanistan has a way of forcing itself into the political headlights. Barack Obama learned this lesson the hard way. He promised to end the war. Instead, he escalated, faltered,then lost interest.

Obama’s 2009 Afghan “surge”, supported by Clinton, then the US secretary of state, sent an additional 51,000 troops to the country. But the reinforcements failed to end the Taliban insurgency. In 2014 Obama said the war was ending. But he has had to eat his words. As he leaves office, 8,400 US soldiers and a large air force contingent remain behind.

The Afghan Taliban, supported by elements in Pakistan, are still the deadliest and most numerous foe. Recent estimates suggest they are gaining territory in Helmand, where British troops once did battle. Repeated offensives around Kunduz in the north and audacious attacks on Kabul have been beaten back, but with great difficulty.

Al-Qaida jihadis – the reason the US entered Afghanistan in 2001 – remain active in at least seven provinces, while Isis has gained a foothold in Nangarhar. Rival ethnic warlords further complicate the picture.

Afghanistan is now America’s longest war. Its 15th anniversary fell on 7 October. More than 2,300 US troops have died there. The conflict has cost US taxpayers an estimated $686bn.

Yet despite recent, tentative peace talks, it is far from over. Afghanistan has become the dirty little secret of the US presidential campaign that neither candidate cares to discuss. 

Across all three presidential debates, Afghanistan was only mentioned once, by Clinton, and then only in passing. The Democrat, already under fire for her support for the 2003 Iraq invasion and the 2011 US intervention in Libya, has little incentive to draw attention to unfinished business in Afghanistan. She knows the war is deeply unpopular with voters.

For his part, Trump seems to understand little and care less. He once said the war was a “terrible mistake” but has no known policy. Even the Taliban feel affronted. A Talib spokesman, quoted by analyst Yochi Dreazen, commented after the first debate that Trump says “anything that comes to his tongue” and is “not serious”.

This shared indifference cannot last, Dreazen wrote. “Whatever the reason, the silence about Afghanistan is a genuine shame since the future of the long US-led war there will be one of the first major choices that a President Trump or a President Clinton would have to make … The next president will need to decide whether to leave the troops there, send more, or bring even more of them home.”

Abandoning Afghanistan is probably not an option, however much western countries would like to wish away the problem. Despite the failure of many rural reconstruction projects, 70 donor countries recently pledged another $15.2bn for the next four years.

While humanitarian needs are undoubtedly acute, such generosity looks like a triumph of hope over experience. The security situation is dire in many areas, Afghan government in Kabul is weak and official corruption is endemic. - Read More, The Guardian
Afghanistan is the dirty little secret of the US presidential campaign

EU signs deal to deport unlimited numbers of Afghan asylum seek - More

The Guardian view on child refugees: too little, too late | Editorial

At last, child refugees are being rescued from the squalor and danger of the Calais camp and brought to Britain. But the process has taken far too long; and even now it is still too slow. This evening, 24 hours after the French government declared “job done”, the home secretary was sending angry messages to her opposite number to demand that children left to sleep rough on the first night were now properly protected. The Home Office is finally grinding into action. But the inaction of both London and Paris, allowing the camp to fester for years, has meant it metastasised into a crisis of inhumanity, devastating for its victims and shaming for the British government.

Many of the people who cross Europe to Calais do so to come to Britain, a country where many have family, where they share a language, and think they have the best chance of getting a job or an education. They are only a tiny number compared with the thousands who find refuge in Germany and Sweden. But the British government still insists that asylum seekers must apply in the first safe country they reach. It argues that admitting asylum seekers through Calais acts as a pull factor, attracting even young and vulnerable children to make a perilous journey from which only people smugglers benefit.

Charities that work in the camps and try to help people with their paperwork believe the inertia comes from the very top of the British government. Even after the Home Office was forced by parliament earlier this year to accept the Dubs amendment allowing in as many as 3,000 unaccompanied minors without family ties in the UK, the decision was taken to work in Greece and Italy among newly arrived refugees, rather than in Calais. While Yvette Cooper, now chair of the home affairs committee, argued that each country should take half the children and teenagers, progress remained near-invisible. Only this month, as domestic political pressure embarrassed French politicians into bulldozing the camp and dispersing its occupants, has the Home Office agreed to take children under the Dubs deal along with those with British family. - Read More
The Guardian view on child refugees: too little, too late | Editorial

Calais camp: police detain young people amid chaotic scenes

Panic and confusion in camp as charities are told police will arrest anyone remaining on site without registration bracelet
French police have begun detaining young people in the Calais refugee camp amid continuing scenes of chaos, as bulldozers began to demolish shelters and new fires erupted in sections of the settlement.

Charities were told police would arrest anyone remaining on the site on Thursday afternoon if they had not registered. Some arrests had already taken place in the morning.

Video footage emerged showing officers taking away four young people from the site as they queued for food. It was not clear why they had been removed or where they had been taken to. Volunteers said they saw two police vans removing young people from the site.

“We saw four children with wristbands being taken into the back of a police truck,” Inca Sorrell of Help Refugees said. It is not clear how many people had been held by police.

The remaining refugee population was under instruction to queue and register by the motorway bridge at the entrance to the site or face arrest. “We have been told that everyone without a registration bracelet will be arrested from 12,” Annie Gavrilescu, of HelpRefugees said.

Minors who have not had a chance to be registered were wandering around in the camp in a state of panic and confusion. Charities say there has been a stark absence of information for the remaining young people about their options; they estimate that there could be up to 150 unregistered children. - Read More,  The Guardian
Calais camp: police detain young people amid chaotic scenes

‘Afghan Girl’ in 1985 National Geographic Photo Is Arrested in Pakistan

An Afghan woman whose photograph as a young refugee with piercing green eyes was published on the cover of National Geographic in 1985, becoming a symbol of the turmoil of war in Afghanistan, was arrested on Wednesday in Pakistan on charges of fraudulently obtaining national identity cards.

The woman, Sharbat Gula, was arrested at her residence in the northwestern city of Peshawar after more than a year of investigation, said Shahid Ilyas, the assistant director of the Federal Investigation Authority.

“We raided the house and picked her up,” he said. “It took us a while to collect all the evidence against her, and the officials involved in helping her and her two sons get Pakistani national identity cards.”

He added, “We have the evidence now, and we are going to go for prosecution.”
The arrest came as the Pakistani authorities were cracking down on Afghans with illegal national identity cards. The authorities said Ms. Gula had illegally obtained a Pakistani identity card in 1988 and a computerized identity card in 2014, while retaining her Afghan passport, which she used in 2014 to travel to Saudi Arabia for the hajj.

She faces up to 14 years in prison and a fine of $3,000 to $5,000 if she is convicted, according to the Dawn news agency.

Her arrest goes to the heart of an ordeal confronting many Afghan refugees who fled across the border into Pakistan because of decades of war. The Pakistani crackdown on Afghans appears to have intensified since May, when the former Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour was killed in a drone strike in Baluchistan Province.

Gerry Simpson, a senior researcher and advocate for the Refugee Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, wrote online that 1.5 million Afghans in Pakistan have received “proof of registration” cards, which protected them from deportation. About one million more who did not get the paperwork resorted to using false identity cards. Mr. Simpson wrote that Pakistan was now on a mission to repatriate all Afghans.

Ms. Gula was known as “the Afghan girl” when Steve McCurry’s photograph of her wearing a red scarf and staring directly at the camera became world famous in the ’80s. After the United States invaded Afghanistan, the photographer searched in 2002 for the schoolgirl he had photographed in a Pakistani refugee camp.- More,  Nytimes

‘Afghan Girl’ in 1985 National Geographic Photo Is Arrested in Pakistan

Monday, October 24, 2016

Awaiting Next U.S. President: A Splintered Middle East in ‘Free Fall’ - nytimes

JERUSALEM — After a presidential campaign dominated by reality-show-style insults and put-downs, the winner of next month’s American election will wake up the following morning to find a far more daunting reality waiting: a Middle East awash in conflict and disarray, desperate for American leadership.

The 45th president will inherit problems associated with the region that are vastly more challenging than any in a generation as the old order has given way to a kaleidoscopic mix of alliances, rivalries and overlapping crises. In the past, presidents have viewed the region through the prism of the Cold War, terrorism or Israel, but those paradigms have shifted dramatically.

Today there is no single overarching issue but multiple ones. Syria, Iraq and Yemen are caught up in war. Turkey and Jordan are inundated by refugees. Russia has reasserted itself as a major player in the region. Libya is searching for stability after the fall of its longtime dictator. The Kurds are on the march. Egypt is fighting off a terrorist threat at home. And Saudi Arabia and Iran are waging a profound struggle for the future of the region.

“In truth, the Middle Eastern order is so fragmented right now that grand visions are utterly unrealistic, if they ever were,” said Emile Hokayem, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies based in Bahrain. “Circumstances, not mere preferences, dictate policy making, and circumstances are dire.”

Here in the region, the United States is seen as disengaging under President Obama, who beyond fighting the Islamic State has been reluctant to be drawn into the swirling forces shaping the Middle East. Mr. Obama’s “politics-free security approaches,” as Mr. Hokayem termed them, have left some hoping for a stronger hand from Washington come January.

To be sure, America’s approach to the Middle East has rarely followed a consistent set of goals or course of action, as Patrick Tyler wrote in his book “A World of Trouble,” a history of 10 presidents and the region. Each president managed the Middle East from different perspectives. Richard M. Nixon saw it as part of his chess match with Moscow. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton pursued diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel and its enemies. Mr. Bush and his father focused on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Mr. Obama certainly inherited a messy situation in the region with the war in Iraq. But by the time he took office, Mr. Bush’s troop surge and Gen. David H. Petraeus’s strategy change had helped turn the war around to the point that Mr. Bush felt free to negotiate a three-year withdrawal plan with Baghdad that Mr. Obama then followed.

“At the core of this geopolitical confrontation is the struggle over the future security architecture of the Middle East,” said Bassel F. Salloukh, a regional expert at the Lebanese American University in Beirut. The next president, Mr. Salloukh said, must figure out a new regional arrangement that takes into account all of the main actors and their interests, including Iran and Turkey. “This is a truly herculean enterprise, but nothing less than this can restore a semblance of stability,” he added.

All over Washington, foreign policy specialists have spent the fall busily crafting their own suggestions for the next president to consider in the Middle East. Organizations like the Brookings Institution, the Atlantic Council, the Middle East Institute and the Center for American Progress are issuing reports or holding conferences. Most of them are predicated on the bipartisan conclusion that Mr. Obama’s approach to the region has not worked and requires a reboot. - Read More

Awaiting Next U.S. President: A Splintered Middle East in ‘Free Fall’

How Al-Qaeda was born in a tiny office in New York - english.alarabiya

The Soviet-Afghan War started in late 1979 and ended in 1989. The insurgent groups known as “the Mujahideen” fought against the Soviet Army and allied Afghan forces. During this period, Al-Qaeda saw its formative period during this time, with many of its members, arrived to Afghanistan from different countries including those from the Arab world.

With its main headquarters in Pakistan, the office, known later as Al-Kifah Refugees Center, became key for Al-Qaeda’s fundraising and recruitment. Many of its branches were later opened in US cities, reaching up to 33 branches.

Al-Qaeda’s first US office opened in Tucson city in Arizona in 1984.

In 1986, Khaled Abu Al-Thahab, one of Al-Qaeda’s members, opened the group’s main branch in the United States in New York’s Brooklyn.

In late 1987, Al-Qaeda early members: Mustafa Shalabi, Fawaz Damara, Ali al-Shinawi, officially registered the office as “Al-Kifah Center, Farouq Mosque.”

Shalabi, a US citizen of Egyptian heritage, was in charge of the office in addition to two other aides: Mohammed Abu Halima, who was later accused for being involved in bombing the World Trade Center in 1993 in New York, and Al-Sayid Nasir, accused of killing a Jewish rabbi in New York in 1990.

One of Al-Qaeda’s letters - received by dating back to 2003 – stated that training was undertaken in Al-Kifah Center.

Mac Williams, an FBI agent, said the US embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul was involved in the recruitment of Arab fighters to fight the Soviets. Azzam, who was in charge of the recruitment at the time, established an Office of Services in Afghanistan in 1984. In one of his letters, Azzam said that he had opened an account in a bank and appointed Shalabi as the manager of the office.

The CIA was involved in the financing the Arab fighters in Afghanistan, according to one of the letters by Algerian Abdullah Anas.

(This is an excerpt of translation of the article first published in the Arabic language website of Al Arabiya News Channel) - Read More

How Al-Qaeda was born in a tiny office in New York - Al Arabiya 

UN cites ‘worrying reversal’ in efforts to tackle illicit drugs as Afghan opium production soars

24 October 2016 – Opium production in Afghanistan rose by 43 per cent to 4,800 metric tons in 2016 from 2015, according to the latest figures released today by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The area under opium poppy cultivation also increased to 201,000 hectares in 2016, up 10 per cent from 183,000 hectares in 2015, Afghanistan Opium Survey found.

“The new report shows a worrying reversal in efforts to combat the persistent problem of illicit drugs and their impact on development, health and security,” said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov in a statement timed to coincide with the survey’s launch.

Consequently, he urged the international community to lend its support to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Afghanistan, including vital work on a peaceful and inclusive society, health, poverty, peace, and gender, among many others.

According to UNODC, the higher production can be explained by the larger area under opium poppy cultivation, but the most important driver is the higher opium yield per hectare. The largest yield increase occurred in the Western region where the average yield grew by 37 per cent and the Southern region, with a 36 per cent rise. Since these two regions account for 84 per cent of the total opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, the yield increases in these regions had a strong impact on the national potential opium production.

The average opium yield, meanwhile, is at 23.8 kilograms per hectare, 30 per cent more than in 18.3 kilograms per hectare in 2015. - Read More
UN cites ‘worrying reversal’ in efforts to tackle illicit drugs as Afghan opium production soars

Afghanistan: UN report finds settlling water disputes key to economic growth, avoiding conflict
UN anti-crime chief urges better use of Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

Aid agencies struggle to assist wave of returning Afghan refugees

Perched on top of lumbering trucks overflowing with all their possessions, Afghan families are streaming back to their home country at unprecedented rates, leaving international organizations scrambling to provide aid as winter approaches.

The flow of returnees from neighboring Iran and Pakistan this year, estimated by the United Nations to number more than half a million, is straining the capacity of the government and aid agencies, even as violence uproots more Afghans around the country.

At Torkham, the busiest border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan, nearly 170,000 Afghans have returned this year, according to the U.N., many of them citing harassment by Pakistani authorities as relations between the two countries have deteriorated.

Islamabad has stepped up pressure to send people back and numbers have risen sharply in recent months as Afghan-Indian relations strengthened and those between India and Pakistan soured.

Lines of colorfully decorated trucks pass through the border gate at Torkham, navigating the mountainous passes with returning refugees clinging to piles of household goods, sometimes with a family cow nearly buried in the back. - Read More

Aid agencies struggle to assist wave of returning Afghan refugees

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mental illness casts shadow over Afghans struggling to cope with decades of war

Some 10 million Afghans - nearly a third of the population - who are facing mental health problems, according to the country's health minister.

Decades of conflict, suicide bombings, displacement, poverty and unemployment have taken a huge toll on Afghans, and left a health system that is under-funded and ill-equipped to provide care to citizens, health experts say.

Insecurity and a lack of funds have prevented a nationwide study of mental health issues but a 2013 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) said surveys had indicated consistently high levels of mental distress in the population.

Substance abuse has been on the rise since 2000, it said.

"No one knows what is going on and what is going to happen to them, and it makes them anxious and depressed," said Eklil Hayat, a doctor in the capital Kabul.

"Perhaps the most obvious signs of mental health problems are that the people have become less tolerant and more impatient," Eklil told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. - Read More

Mental illness casts shadow over Afghans struggling to cope with decades of war

TAWDE KHABARE: Taliban, Govt Backdoor Talks in Qatar Discussed

The U.S strongly supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, said U.S department of state spokesman Mark Tuner on Wednesday, but gave no details about a U.S role in the Afghan peace dialogue. - Read More

TAWDE KHABARE: Taliban, Govt Backdoor Talks in Qatar Discu

Watch: Trump Won't Commit To Accepting Election Results In Final Debate

The final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was overall more cordial and more policy-focused than their nasty second face-off. But the stunning moment that will stand out is the GOP nominee's statement that he won't necessarily accept the results of the election on November 8th.

"I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense," Trump said in a shocking statement that signals a break from the traditional transfer of power.

His hardline stance came after a week in which he's ramped up talk that the election is "rigged" for Clinton, even as national polls and surveys in battleground states show the Democratic nominee opening up a consistent lead. But both his daughter Ivanka and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, had said recently that Trump would accept the election results.

Overall though, the Las Vegas debate, moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News, was markedly more policy-focused than the two previous events. He opened with asking the candidates about the Supreme Court, their positions on gun control and abortion, and also delved into their plans for immigration and the economy. - Read More, NPR

Watch: Trump Won't Commit To Accepting Election Results In Final Debate

UN mission in Afghanistan reports 'worrying' rise in child casualties

19 October 2016 – Even though overall conflict-related civilian casualty numbers in Afghanistan fell by one per cent in the first nine months of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015, child casualties saw a marked increase of 15 per cent, the United Nations mission in the country said today.

According to the latest figures released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), of the total 8,397 casualties (2,562 deaths and 5,835 injured), 29.3 per cent or 2,461 casualties were children (639 deaths and 1,822 injured).

“Increased fighting in densely populated areas makes it imperative for parties to take immediate steps to ensure all feasible precautions are being taken to spare civilians from harm,” the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said today in a news release issued by the mission.

Of particular concern, UNAMA noted in the release, was the continued rise in child casualties. In the first nine months of this year, 2,461 child casualties (639 deaths and 1,822 injured) were document, a 15 per cent increase over the same period in 2015. Ground engagements caused more than half of all child casualties in 2016 and some 84 per cent victims of unexploded ordnance were children.

Emphasizing the need to protect children, UNAMA Human Rights Director Danielle Belle stressed: “All parties must systematically track, mark and clear unexploded ordinance in order protect current and future generations of children from harm.”

Emphasizing the need to protect children, UNAMA Human Rights Director Danielle Belle stressed: “All parties must systematically track, mark and clear unexploded ordinance in order protect current and future generations of children from harm.”

In terms of actors causing the casualties, the mission said that anti-Government elements caused about 61 per cent (5,143) of the total casualties, including 1,569 deaths and 3,574 injured. About 23 per cent (1,897; 623 deaths and 1,274 injured) of all casualties were attributed to pro-Government forces. 11 per cent of civilian casualties resulted from ground fighting between anti-Government elements and pro-Government forces where the responsible party could not be identified and unattributed unexploded ordnance caused the majority of the remaining civilian casualties (5 per cent). - Read More

UN mission in Afghanistan reports 'worrying' rise in child casualties

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saving Afghanistan From the Edge of Failure - Mohammad Shafiq Hamdam

In the last two years, Afghanistan has been facing unprecedented challenges. However, several major development projects have initiated, launched or completed. But the government has failed to deliver its promises. Thousands of Afghans died in violence. The government lost control of several districts across the country and hundreds of thousands of Afghans forced to flee their home. Unemployment and corruption is at its peak. Disunity among the Afghans have increased and the country is more fragile than ever. If the world community does not engage immediately, Afghanistan will turn into a second Iraq.

After a major election crisis and controversy, the coalition government of national unity inaugurated in September of 2014. Without release of the election results, in amediation of the US Secretary of State John Kerry, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani introduced as a president and his political rival Dr. Abdullah Abdullah as his chief

Since its establishment, the legitimacy of the National Unity Government (NUG) has challenged and called unconstitutional. Following the deal for the new government, Afghanistan and the US signed the Bilateral Security Agreement and NATO Status of Forces Agreement, allowing the US and its NATO allies to stay in Afghanistan, beyond 2015.

Paying $ 4 billion a year to the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) and $1 billion for development projects, the US is the largest donor of Afghanistan. In 2011, during the second Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, the world community has agreed to support Afghanistan for ten years, the Decade of Transformation (2015-2024).

Afghanistan is still at the bottom of transparency indexBrussels conference on Afghanistan is just around the corner and it will be held 4-5 October. This is another great opportunity for the NUG to pledge to fight against corruption and appeal for further aid to the major donors.

Unconditionally backed by the world community, Afghan leaderships think of themselves above every law and privileged. The nation is suppressed, starving, divided and living in fear. They do not have the power to set their politicians and civil servants accountable. Therefore, it gives a chance to the insurgents to recruit angry and hopeless Afghans into their lines.

The government should be responsible for securing and building on the gains made possible by the blood and treasure of Afghans and their allies. However, in the absence of accountability mechanism, a regime which is politically, financially and even militarily backed by the world community, might not be accountable to its ordinary citizens.

Every month, thousands of Afghans leave the country because of poverty, unemployment, and insecurity. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, more than a quarter of the one million refugees and migrants who arrived in Europe in 2015 were Afghans, coming second after Syrians.

The country is rich in natural resources, gas, minerals and oil worth estimate around 3 trillion US dollars. But still poverty is one of the major cause of the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. Therefore, promoting a healthy investment in extractive industries and trade will support Afghanistan’s Self-Reliance strategy, agreed by the world community in Tokyo in July 2012. 

Helping Afghanistan establishes peace, encourage investment in infrastructure could help decrease the flow of refugees to Europe, which represents a brain drain for Afghanistan and an addition to the refugee crisis in the European countries.

Afghanistan is in a serious economic, political and security crisis. The upcoming Brussels conference is an opportunity for the world community to review and renew their long-term commitments and to set clear benchmarks and mechanism for accountability of the NUG. In order to ensure Afghanistan can never again be a safe haven for terrorists, there has to be a two-way street. Not a dirt one, but a two-way paved street. It is in the interest of the world community and the Afghan people. - Read More

Saving Afghanistan From the Edge of Failure | Huffington Post